Print Closeup: Rudy Pozzatti’s “Mr President”

Thirty-two portraits of U.S. Presidents ring the perimeter of Rudy Pozzatti’s print, Mr. President. These border images surround a select group of controversial and tragic presidents: Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Richard M. Nixon, Warren G. Harding, and Lyndon B. Johnson.

At the upper center of the print, just above Nixon’s head and in large capital letters, WATERGATE references the 1972 political scandal that led ultimately to the resignation of the 37th President. Nixon, notorious for recording meetings in the Oval Office, occupies a space just above a reel to reel tape recorder, alluding to the mechanics of his political plummet. To the right of Nixon, somewhat diminished and in the shadows, is Gerald Ford who pardoned his disgraced predecessor and former boss.

While none of these presidential portraits are derived from official White House portraits, each is taken from a well known depiction. In the top row on the left side, Theodore Roosevelt, for example, is dressed in his Rough Riders’ uniform that he wore in 1898 during the Spanish-American War.

Through the center of the print is a strip of  various official governmental seals, and at the right a drawing of Lyndon Johnson, the 36th President of the United States. Johnson was responsible for the escalation of the Vietnam Conflict in 1963, shortly after taking office after his predecessor, John F. Kennedy, was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.

Kennedy, in the lower half of the print, abuts a portrait of Abraham Lincoln, who was also assassinated while in office. Below Kennedy’s chin, Pozzatti placed a Carcano Model 1891/38 Infantry rifle believed to have ended the president’s life. Above Lincoln’s portrait, a hand holds a pistol, apparently a Model 1911 rather than the Derringer that John Wilkes Booth likely used to assassinate Lincoln in Ford’s Theater in 1865. Several portraits of Lincoln repeat on the left side of the print, while to the right of Kennedy bullet holes punctuate illegible red text and official seals of office.



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